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A Chat with R.A. Dickey

TIME For Kids spoke with the Major League Baseball player about Knuckleball Ned, his new children’s book

May 16, 2014
COURTESY PENGUIN BOOKS

Baseball player R.A. Dickey reads with his son and daughter. Dickey's new children's book, Knuckleball Ned, has just been published.

Baseball player R.A. Dickey pitches for the Toronto Blue Jays. He is well known for his knuckleball pitch. Dickey also loves to read and write, and has already authored a memoir. His latest book, Knuckleball Ned, is for children. It is the story of a character named Ned, who has trouble fitting in until he discovers that he has special abilities. Here, Dickey talks with TFK about books, his family, and—of course—baseball!

TFK:

Why did you want to write a children’s book?

R.A. DICKEY:

I felt I had a good idea for a book. And it was a way for me to use what I do for a living as a platform to give a positive message to kids.

TFK:

How did you come up with the idea for Knuckleball Ned? Did you feel like you had to make it about the knuckleball in some way?

R.A. DICKEY:

Knuckleball Ned is R.A. Dickey's first book for children.

Knuckleball Ned is R.A. Dickey's first book for children.

I am always thinking about how I can I use what’s around me to deliver a story or a message. I am around baseball, so it was a natural fit for me to use baseballs as actual characters. The overall message of this book is that we can celebrate the things that make us unique and special. Sometimes, people are afraid of what others may think about them, and I wanted to make a book that encourages people to be true to themselves.

TFK: 

Who is your target audience for this book?

R.A. DICKEY:

It’s great for kids starting school and for a young grade-school audience. But the characters are relatable for older kids too. Being afraid of starting school is something every kid can relate to. I think it’s natural that kids who are interested in baseball would be interested in this book. But it’s not just about baseball. The message is bigger than that—it’s about how to be brave in tough situations.

TFK:

Did you test out your book ideas on your own kids?

R.A. DICKEY:

You bet! Who better to ask? It was really fun to have them as the test group. They gave me a lot of feedback. I remember my kids giggling a lot at one part, and I thought, I should keep this! It was fun for me to do it to see their expressions and hear their ideas.

TFK:

What was the process like, writing and publishing this book?

R.A. DICKEY:

I love writing. It’s a great outlet. It’s a fantastic distraction for me as a professional baseball player. I had a lot of cooperation and help from a guy who is a mentor to me in Nashville, Tennessee. His name is Michael Karounos and his name is on the book as a coauthor. I always feel like it’s important to relay to kids that there is a lot to be learned in collaboration and cooperation. I didn’t work as closely with the illustrator (Tim Bowers) as I thought I would, but I am so happy with how the illustrations came out. I loved seeing how Ned came to life!

TFK:

Are there any similarities between book publishing and baseball?

R.A. DICKEY:

Both have the pressure of deadlines and of putting yourself out there. Every day when I take the field as major-league pitcher, I am held accountable to the 40,000 people in the stands and the millions watching on television. When you write and publish, you are also putting yourself out there. It takes courage.

TFK: 

What do you like to do when you are not playing baseball or writing books?

R.A. DICKEY:

R.A. Dickey is a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays.

GETTY IMAGES
R.A. Dickey is a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays.

I like to spend time with my kids. My kids are ages 3, 8, 10, and 12—I have two sons and two daughters. They travel with me quite a bit. We love to go to the beach and just be together. Baseball is a tough lifestyle. We play 162 games a year, and half of those are played away from home, so I am away from my family close to half a year. The other half of the year, I try to be very involved with what is going on at home.

TFK: 

What kinds of books do you like to read?

R.A. DICKEY:

I like all genres. I love historical fiction because you can learn something about our world and get lost in the imagination of the writer. I like autobiographies because I love to learn about the lives of other people and how they have overcome things and dealt with issues. And I have always enjoyed poetry, ever since high school.

TFK: 

Do you have plans to write more books ?

R.A. DICKEY:

I have another book I am writing about Knuckleball Ned, which is planned to come out next year. Other than that, I don’t have any plans, but I when I retire from baseball, I definitely plan to do some writing. I am thinking about journalism or maybe a book of short stories.

TFK: 

I feel we must ask you at least one baseball question. What advice do you have for kids who are trying to learn a knuckleball pitch?

R.A. DICKEY:

Well, there is no substitute for hard work. I know when some people think about the knuckleball, they think there is some magic trick to it. But it’s basically getting the right grip—and practicing. I threw thousands and thousands of balls against a brick wall before I ever felt that I got it right. 


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